The thing about runners is that runners are undeniably tough customers. And the community of runners is a tight knit one, no matter how far apart the roads they traverse. And in the aftermath of Monday's bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, that community is coming together to support itself, to support Boston, to support all of us.
You might not think it when you see a pack running down the street, all thin and sleek in piping and highlighter colored track suits and funny shoes, but runners put their bodies through vigorous workouts on par or more demanding than what any jacked up weight lifter at your local gym can do on an average weeknight. "The people who did this don't realize that marathon runners are tough," Mary Diel, a 55-year-old marathon veteran, told Buzzfeed's Jessica Testa. Diel was at Monday's race, though she was far enough away from the finish line when the bombs went off to not hear anything explode. Regardless, she doesn't see herself or any of her peers slowing down because of the attacks. "This is what we do, and today shouldn't change anything."
Across the running paths of America — and certainly across social media today and going forward — the runners are rallying. Small signs of support are popping up, both in real life and online, for the victims and their athletic brethren. A group called Run Chat is organizing their community to wear either blue or yellow shirts, or shirts from marathons past, all week — on the road, to the office, anywhere — to show their support. "On Tuesday and throughout the week, let's show the world how strong the running community is," they write. "Now is the time to unite and stand as one." Pictures of people wearing their blue and yellow have already started to pour in on Twitter and Instagram:
Elsewhere, other members of the running community are urging people to just — well, to just run. Right now, running is enough. There's a Facebook event being passed around advocating people try and complete 26.2 miles — the same distance as the Boston Marathon — over the next day, week, or month, whenever. Just run.
Other runners — runners who are writers — have tried to make sense of what happened Monday, and what's happening now, through their words. Some have written about the importance of the marathon to the city of Boston. Others have written about what running a marathon means to someone, anyone, to try and make sense of the crushing disappointment felt when a goal you've worked so hard for gets snatched away by cowards. The New Yorker's Susan Orlean tried to make sense of it all, to explain what running a major marathon does for someone, what it means .when a group of people comes together to accomplish something near impossible, and at the same time:
I’m sure rural marathons and small-city marathons are great, but the special thing about big-city marathons, like New York and Boston, is that they are occasions when the clashing and whirring of urban life quiets, and everyone stands together to see a bunch of people trying to do something very simple that is also very hard. It’s marvellous. When I was training for my marathon run, my coach told me that I only needed to be able to run twenty-two or twenty-three miles, because the adrenaline from the crowd would lift me up and I’d fly the rest of the way.
There's an old saying, from a movie I watched as a child, that seems stupidly poignant when reading Orlean's description of marathon runners: ducks fly together. That's what marathon runners do. They did it Monday, until tragedy struck, though some continued flying all the way Mass. General Hospital to donate blood. The great Charles P. Pierce tried to explain what, exactly, the Marathon is for Boston. "Nobody loves the Boston Marathon as much as the people who make fun of it year after year," he wrote over at ESPN's Grantland. "This was the race that previously offered as a prize a not particularly expensive medal, a laurel wreath, and a bowl of beef stew." He counts himself among those people who made fun of the race, by the way. "The Marathon was the old, drunk uncle of Boston sports, the last of the true festival events." But that's over now because of this terrorist attack that injured so many people. "The Marathon will be worth mocking again. But that will not be today. It will not be anytime soon. I sat down near the stone fountain, and wished all of us could wash the day away."